So, you want to attend a coding boot camp. You’ve decided on your top choice. You’re ready to start the application process.
But then you look at the admission rates and your stomach churns.
You had no idea how competitive coding boot camps are. Admission rates are as low as ivy-league schools. Hackbright Academy, for instance, has a 5% admissions rate. And it’s not an exception. Hack Reactor, Codesmith, and other top-notch coding boot camps accept less than 10%.
You start thinking you’ll never get accepted. Your hopes of attending your first-choice boot camp fade.
Don’t lose hope.
You can start by taking some critical steps to get into your first pick. This post will walk you through the crucial steps to put you in the best position. You’ll see each stage of the application process, from pre-interview to the final decision. Follow the steps to set your application high above the rest.
What a Boot Camp Recruiter Looks For
Let’s start with the basics. You’ll need to figure out some background information on the boot camp you’re applying to. The top-ranked boot camps are transparent, and a simple Google search works wonders. Research shows that coding boot camps look at two main areas of an applicant: Your soft and your hard skills.
Hard skills refer to your technical aptitude. Are you technically gifted in programming languages or do you at least have excellent computer skills? You might think having hard skills isn’t necessary. After all, you’re attending the boot camp to learn them. But most recruiters say they look at whether applicants have some degree of basic knowledge.
Assess your current technical aptitude. Are you starting from scratch? Have you learned some basic coding concepts? If not, ask yourself why. Recruiters don’t want applicants who say “I’m here to serve myself.”
It’s better to try to learn some basics on your own. Go out and try to build something. Use free online resources to get past the beginner level. You don’t have to be an expert from day one. But recruiters know there’s free knowledge out there. They know you can get a junior-developer level for free. Some coding boot camps even provide free resources to prepare you for the future.
Your technical aptitude will grow as you attend the camp. But recruiters are also looking at your set of soft skills. Are you passionate about coding? Do you have have an ability to learn through criticism? Recruiters look for three main traits here: curiosity, self-management, and passion. These crucial traits show you’re serious about putting in the work. This is what can set you apart from other candidates and put you in the coveted 10% of accepted applicants.
Lean on those soft skills when you start in the interview process.
How To Ace Your Boot Camp Interviews
You studied up on the basics and have some technical knowledge. You used it to help a friend code his website. You highlighted your soft skills in your application cover letter. Then, you waited.
Weeks later, you get an email with the date and time for your first interview. That’s when your nerves start to kick in.
The email specifies you’ll have a one-on-one meeting with a recruiter. You’ll talk about your reasons for attending boot camp. It’s known as the “cultural fit” interview, one of the two interviews in the admissions process.
The Cultural Fit Interview: Don't Take it Lightly
You assume the interview will be basic. But it’s a pivotal part of the process. It's made to ferret out if you’re a good fit. It’s just as important for the coding school as it is for you. Boot camps want to see their students succeed and go on to land IT roles. The top schools have seen it all before. They know which candidates will succeed and which will fail. They’ll weed out many applicants during this part of the process.
Recruiters want to know two things. First, do you have a passion for coding? Second, does your approach to learning match theirs? They’ll ask a set of questions to find out. Here are some of them:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to be a software engineer?
- Have you built anything in the past?
- I see you took some online courses. What did you learn in this program and what was your overall feeling about it?
- If you’re programming with somebody less experienced than you, how do you handle the project?
Be honest with recruiters when answering these questions. Maybe you don’t have a lot of knowledge in programming, but got involved in it through a project. In that case, don’t say “I want to be a software engineer because it’s a passion of mine.” Instead, show how you built the passion through your actions.
The Technical Interview is Your Biggest Enemy
Guess how many people pass the technical interview? One in four.
It weeds out a lot of the competition. Of course, it depends what type of boot camp you’re applying to. In-person and immersive programs assess candidates to test if they’ll keep up with the program’s pace from day one. The technical interview will have a technical assessment. It may include a test in the middle of the interview or an assignment in advance.
Flatiron School—one of the nation’s top coding schools—makes applicants complete several coding challenges on their own before the interview. Then at interview time, the students answer questions about their work and explain their coding choices. The interviewers may even change your code during the interview to present you with new problems.
How to Prepare for the Technical Interview:
Don’t walk into the technical interview, sweating bullets and unprepared.
With a little preparation, you’ll feel cool and ready when you sit in the hot seat.
Focus your prep on three key areas: communication, coding skills, and basic terminology.
Of course this is the most important part of the interview. According to Viking founder Erik Trautman, “Coding makes up 100% of the skills portion of the interview.”
But how can you get your coding skills in top shape for the grilling you’re about to get? The good news is, it’s not that hard. Do the following:
- Explain your codes to yourself. Explain it to your tech friends. Let them ask you questions to see if you can answer them.
- Basic terminology. Brush up on the terminology with this guide.
- Leverage the endless resources online that can help you review and update basic coding skills. Remember, the fundamental to good coding are basically the same despite the languages and platforms, so focus on basic good practices.
What are the interviewers trying to accomplish with these questions? Is it about testing you under pressure? No. Interviewers want to see if you can communicate your results, improve on your code, and solve new challenges. You need to have the basic ability to solve problems. Knowing specific technologies and languages is not the end-all. It’s more about having a fundamental baseline of knowledge and information across languages.
The Dreaded Decision
But wait, what if you already applied to your favorite boot camp and didn’t get in? Is your dream boot camp now lost? Will you have to look elsewhere?
After reviewing over 30 coding boot camps, I found no restrictions on how many times you can apply to your desired boot camp. Coding boot camp is not a traditional college where you have one shot at getting in.
Don’t lose hope. Apply again, but this time, take the necessary steps.
Start by looking at your weakest point. Recruiters are transparent about this type of information. They’ll tell you if you failed the cultural interview or didn’t have the right technical aptitude. Build on those skills you didn’t have and try again. Put more effort in the second time around and it will show. In fact, your dedication will be a huge plus in your application.